Sunshine in a rain storm

Welp. You just never know.


Thursday night , I mourned my little athletic dog—and the life he could have had. I grieved about the time we had together and the life in the future I took for granted. I reflected on his quirks from playing with doors with his nose, his herding me whenever he had an idea of what we needed to do, to his broad curiousity around the world that his previous life as “Mitchi (their spelling) from Queens” to Mitchy Ray Sunshine of Trumansburg. Country squire, lover of people, crowds, squirrels, deer, NYS sharp cheese, white hots, aand the opportunities to flee or tease us to chase him. He was verging on zombie dog that afternoon. After the cycle of being taught by a very precise and loving vet, it seemed that there were two options—Mitch lives, or Mitch dies. I was not right with any of this, but as I said choking down the emotions to Rob while we waited to do the hard work on Friday morning, I want to be mindful. I want to be there for Mitch. I believed he would tell us what to do.

And he did.


We were back at the Cornell Companion Animal Hospital getting the full experience from the amazing scene of the waiting room with animals of every shape and size, breed and age, with their handlers who reflected the same spectrum. It is always very exciting and funny. Truly, I could sit there a day a week for the happy factor. Dog people want to hang with other dog people. It’s i a great place to make life long dog friends and share the love of dogs, their companionship and quirks, and the import they have in our lives.

Rob and I were shuttled into another one of the holding rooms to wait, and then spend time with our bully boy. He blazed into this space, tail twitching, ears up—fully alert and delighted to see his people—who are two poles of electricity—-his alpha and his beta—and he is the charge in-between. For Mitch, black and white is nice, but there is a lovely spectrum of grey. And so, we decided to take him home. No doubts about it. If we could have a little more time of lake breezes and long drinks, of snapping at bugs and sleeping on a puff—then we will take it.

So, armed with a plastic bag of meds and a magical punch list of what, when, how—we took our little prancing boy to the car on a rainbow leash. He was ecstatic. And, in the Cassetti tradition of, “you do well at the doctor, there is a treat”—Mitch got a full order of hot chicken nuggets which, after not eating his whole time in the hospital was heaven— which he (Mr, Temperature Sensitive) inhaled— smacking his lips and snapping his jaws. And so it began. He is so, so happy. Rubbing his head against us. Sleeping on his puff with all four legs in the air. Drinking heartily from the tub faucet—breathing in energy wherever it is.

My thinking is that time with our guy — who is living off the standard for his kidneys, every day is a gift. My job is to run the best canine hospice for our brave boy, and let him savor the tings he loves. So, food is whatever he eats. There are drives. Everyday, our drive to the lake (normally a 12-15 minute drive) is 45 minutes to an hour with the windows open, frequent stops to inhale to fragrances and smells. Oh my goodness, the smells. He absolutely drinks it in—tongue out, swiping at the essence of fresh grass, or flowering milkweed. Standing still—with the car still as well—-hearing the sounds, watching the birds and tasting the country.

Our first night of our long drive through the countryside— we drove through a light rain in a brilliant blue sky summer day. Sunbeams in the rain. My tears despite Mitch’s mindfulness. “ Look at what we have now, Q.” is his encouragement. And so, I turned off the radio and stopped the car to smell the cut grass and flowers in the air. To confirm this—we pullled onto the road that is populated with an Amish school and several farms. I saw two young amish boys…maybe 5 or 6 years old…I only saw heads/hats and their shoulders until they emerged out of field—with one boy in an electric wheelchair pulling his friend in a little wagon. They were in the moment, taking advantage of what they had—and not mourning what they could have or be. They exuded life and joy. “Learn from that Q.”, Mitch reminds me.

He is drinking robustly but being fussy about eating. I got a big talk from the Vet about dog food…and though I have done all of that, he turns his nose up. So, I am nurse in charge at hospice…pushing the pills and giving him food he will eat. It may not be the perfect medical solution, but he is eating….and that gives both of us pleasure.

Mitch is still here. Waning, but fiercely still here. And I will be here for him until it’s time.

This journey has many stops

left to right, Kitty, Gloria, Ron, Alex, Mary, Rob, June 2012, Trumansburg, NYTomorrow we celebrate Ron Cassetti, my father-in-law. The place is buzzing after a month of planning and talk. All the stars in the process of lining up, and it should represent him well—and to his liking. The flowers are bought and parsed into vases. Mary is  ready with a new dress, better health and the strength to take on this push. She is in command of the program, her guests, and the pacing of the day. Gloria, Rob and I have taken some off her plate so she can be on top of her game tomorrow. Gloria is welcoming her cousins (here from California) and friends—embracing that community. Alex and Sevi are planning and practicing their music. The guest book (a discrete matte black number) is purchased. The programs, printed. Rob is busy moving furniture and fluffing here and there. David is prepping and making the house look as good as it can. I am plating a bunch of food I ordered from the Regional Access and the store—so there is minimal cooking and maximal opening and styling. Nigel is being the wonder he is and helping in every vein including psychological. It should all be good.

I have been thinking about Ron’s last few days with us. He was sleeping a lot, but when he was awake, he was cheerful, comfortable and in the zone with us. However, as he got closer to the end, he would take little naps in between eating and getting up to sleep again. He was roused by Rob from one with his coming out of his haze saying that “this journey has many stops”. As Ron transitioned from one plane to the other, there were many stops—many stops we did not see and many we did. If we take that simple thought about our personal journeys having many stops—it is indeed true from the big ones of birth, death and that moment of awareness of yourself to the simple stops of coffee every morning, to the many trips to the grocery store or to the beach on vacation. The analogy of travel is lovely, linear and like time as we live it —but is that the trip Ron was on. Was he traversing the gradient, gradually moving from one place to another— leaving one behind, accepting the transition and finally understanding where he was moving to, accepting that new place and gradually letting go of the old to grasp the new?

My grandmother, Mrs. Eddy, had trips as she aged, quietly leaving us and living in her mind— mentioning travel with here long dead sisters, and did we see the trunk at the end of her bed, ready for the adventures ahead.? Did we see her sisters who had been there?  She was prepared and ready to go—leaving the dreary dullness of today for the new. Her life in her old body was not where she wanted to be, but free to travel on a boat with her two smart and chatty sisters, a trip for fun, a trip to be together a trip away from the here and into the next or the hereafter.

That journey with many stops is something we are on right now…and will continue either locked in the shells we inhabit on this plane, or in some other guise. We should embrace the adventure of simple things like coffee and conversation, to visions and vistas, to true travel both here to the store or out to the bigger world…registering all the little stops that make up a day, a week, a month, a year, a life…but not anticipiating the beyond—but taking comfort that this forward motion is something we need to accept. To go with the flow.